Feature story

Landmark forum in China to champion rights-based approach to HIV

06 July 2010

20100705_ChinaA_200Vice Minister Yin Li addressed the Forum on 5 July 2010

For the first time in China, government and civil society have formed a partnership to offer innovative ideas from a rights-based perspective to strengthen the national response to HIV. The China Red Ribbon Beijing Forum was launched on 5 July 2010 at a high-level meeting attended by Vice Minister of Health Yin Li and more than 100 members of civil society, including grassroots organizations.

The Chinese government places great importance on the AIDS response.

China’s Vice Minister of Health Yin Li

“The Chinese government places great importance on the AIDS response,” said Vice Minister Yin Li.  “National leaders are setting a strong example in advocating and driving all sectors of society to protect the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS, reducing stigma and discrimination and leading the way forward.”

20100705_ChinaA1_200Forum speakers respond to questions from the floor.

“What’s happened here today is truly significant, and we shouldn’t underestimate its importance,” observed Steve Kraus, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team Asia-Pacific. “Partnership between government and civil society, fostering candid and open debate, is critical to success for all national AIDS programmes.” 

Only by adopting a people-centred approach, by ensuring the protection of people’s rights, can strategies and measures in our AIDS response be fully implemented, the scope of our response be expanded, and the lives of those living with or affected by HIV be improved.

Dr Wang Longde, president of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association and chair of the Forum’s Interim Steering Committee

Dr Wang Longde, president of the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association and chair of the Forum’s Interim Steering Committee emphasized that “Only by adopting a people-centred approach, by ensuring the protection of people’s rights, can strategies and measures in our AIDS response be fully implemented, the scope of our response be expanded, and the lives of those living with or affected by HIV be improved.”

The Forum’s 14-member Interim Steering Committee includes representatives from government and civil society. It will be replaced after a year by a Steering Committee whose membership will be chosen through wide consultation with civil society and other stakeholders.

Rights-based approach

20100705_ChinaB_200Mr Steve Kraus, Director UNAIDS RST Asia Pacific.

Thomas Cai is founder of AIDS Care China whose community-based HIV care work has been honoured both internationally and at home. An appointee to the interim committee, he is convinced that the initiative is an opportunity for a new way of doing things.

“This Forum should and will be more than just rhetoric,” Cai explained. “Yes, there is skepticism about whether it is truly going to make a difference, or if it’s more show than substance. But by using HIV as an ‘experiment’, if you will, the aim is to strengthen the rights-based approach that serves as our context.”

Looking forward

A broad range of issues were discussed including how the law can be crafted to protect the rights of those vulnerable to, or living with, HIV; how to address stigma and discrimination; and how HIV prevention efforts can be strengthened across China through rights-based approaches.

“Converting the discussions into concrete results is the next step,” said Mark Stirling, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for China.

Forum delegates already highlighted a number of areas that need to be prioritized. These include:

  • Incorporating a rights-based approach into China’s next HIV/AIDS Five-Year Action Plan (2011-2016);
  • Ensuring compliance with existing anti-discrimination clauses, and conducting a legal audit to assess where conflicting laws need to be revised or removed;
  • Creating a standardised framework to address compensation for HIV infection through contaminated blood products or the selling of blood;
  • Addressing the need for registration and legal recognition of non-governmental and community-based organizations;
  • Fostering dialogue between the Ministries of Health, Public Security and Justice to examine how harm reduction work could be strengthened to reduce the risks of infection to injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men;

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